6,749 yards, 131 slope from the Blues
Course:  Located in Shepherdsville, KY, which is about 30 minutes outside of Louisville, lies Heritage Hill GC.  I had never been to Kentucky before and it turned out I had time for a round.  Not only had I never been to Kentucky, but I really had no idea what the golf scene was about, aside from knowing that Valhalla was nearby.  Part of me thought it might be best to visit the Bourbon trail, check out Churchill Downs–maybe even see if it was possible to take in the Louisville Slugger factory (it is), instead of trying to find a course, figure out how to get there and hope they could fit in a single from out of town.  It just didn’t seem worth the hassle.
But, I’m not Philly Golf Guy for nothing and if there’s golf to be had, I’m willing to drive, wait, get lost, etc. until I’m out on the course, taking things in and mixing it up.  In this case, I’m glad I did, as Heritage Hill was a terrific lay out and worth every ounce of effort getting there.
HH was designed by Douglas Beach.  Beach worked with Jack Nicklaus and his design group for approximately 15 years, which included assisting with the remodeling of the Championship course at PGA National, where the Honda Classic is each year.  Beach’s design philosophies seem focused on the player’s enjoyment by providing a little bit of diversity and quirk while ensuring the round is fun yet challenging.  These are standard tenets of good design and were indeed incorporated into Heritage Hill.  Moderate elevation changes, but fully utilized those to create some terrific holes, like the par 3 Eleventh, which is a drop shot to a nook terrace just above a stream, as well as the Eighteenth, where the tee shot goads you to carry the water and get as close to the green as possible.  Mounding and bunkering are used creatively.  The greens all seemed different, offering an array of short game decisions to keep things interesting.  At the end of the day, I was glad I made the trip.  Beach certainly invokes his persona into the design and it felt unique in that respect.  There is definitely an effort to keep things fresh from hole to hole, which added to fun.  Finally, this might be something only I came across, but mis hits were typically penalized with more difficult shots to the green instead of lost strokes, or even worse, losing your ball in plain sight.  I attribute this to the design as well.  HH is currently ranked the 2nd best public course in Kentucky by Golf Week and I could agree with that ranking.  Picturesque in the hills just south of Louisville, the charm of the course effused just the right amount of quirk for a relaxing and entertaining round.  

The First is a 550 yard par 5 (from the Blues).  The hole is a gentle double dog leg, with trees along the left side and rolling mounds on the right.  The fairway splits around the green as can be seen in the photo below, which provides numerous options on where to hit your second shot to set up the approach.  The rolling terrain, the various shot options and the framing of the green all set the tone on what to expect throughout the round.  

The First

The Second is a 194 yard par 3.  The distance is deceiving because you’re on an elevated tee and the green is receptive to longer clubs so long as you’re aiming for the front of it, but most wayward shots will end up OB.  Like a lot of good longer par 3’s, shorter shots are not penalized, so long as they are straight.  The isolation of this hole, surrounded by trees and the other holes separated a good deal, was healthy solitude that I like to get some times when golfing.

The Second

The Third is a 423 yard par 4.  The hole is a gentle dog leg to the right, but looks more severe from the tee because a row of bunkers in the center jut up and block the view of the entire hole.  The bunkers really only come into play with a poor tee shot that attempts to carry them, otherwise there’s plenty of room to the left if you want to avoid the bunkers at all costs.  The approach is a little tougher and toughest to date for the round, as the green is on the smaller side a small yet effective bunker on the front left makes precision even more valuable.  I tend to favor courses that have very good short par 4’s and this one fits the bill.  More importantly, the routing up to this point is terrific, in both the variety of par holes and shots/distances required of you.

The Third

Approach shot territory

The Fourth is a 537 yard par 5.  The routing on the front nine indeed features 3 par 5’s and 3 par 3’s, adding to the fun in my opinion.  The Fourth is another dog leg right, but there is nothing standing in the way of cutting the dog leg and trying to reach the green in two.  Although the green complex is surrounded by bunkers, with some as short as 15 – 20 yards of the green.  With the difficulty of the green complex, the wide fairway leading up to it is a nice opportunity to figure out where you want to end up for your approach shot.  The generosity of the course to allow a variety of approach shots yet tighten up the greens is an example of good designing in my opinion.

The Fourth

Moving up the fairway, with the green in sight

The Fifth is a 177 yard par 3.  Missing left is a real bad idea.  There are bunkers and beyond those, a hill that will repel shots downwards, leaving as much as a 50 yard recovery shot carrying over the bunker to the green.  The green is large and there is bail out room to the right, so it’s all in front of you off the tee.  It’s a nice chance to recover a stroke.

The Fifth
The Sixth is a 356 yard par 4.  It’s probably one of the my favorite holes on the course, as you have a view of the Northern Kentucky mountains off to the right, the hoard of bunkers off to the right have a great shape and cluster to them and a well struck tee shot is rewarded with a nice short iron approach.  Again, a great short par 4, and this course putting together a very good front nine thus far.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 206 yard par 3.  This hole indeed plays to its distance.  The false front, which may lure some into a shorter shot to run up to the pin, will be disappointed when their shot rolls downhill, away from the hole.  The bunkers off to the right are steep and will leave most shots as blind to the green.  But the saving grace is the green is on the larger side.  And anything a little deep should be fine.   The great variety in shots and distances continues here.

The Seventh

The Eighth is a 408 yard par 4.  It’s a rather straightforward hole, although anything too far off to the left or right will make the hole infinitely tougher without forcing you OB.  It’s what I call a stabilizing hole, which is one of those that mellows the round a little without any blind shots, dizzying difficulty or photography worthy scenery; it simply requires two well struck shots for your par.

The Eighth

Approach shot territory

The Ninth is a 535 yard par 5.  Mini groups of bunkers can be seen on both sides of the fairway while the fairway itself widens and narrows leading up to the green.  The bunkers come into play of the tee, as the fairway pinches in that area, but a well struck tee shot carries them and again allows you to set up a preferred approach shot, although the green is long and angles from 4:00 to 10:00.  

The Ninth

Second shot territory

Approach shot territory

Generally, the front nine fit my routing preference very well, providing an eclectic combination of par 5’s, par 3’s and short par 4’s.  I actually score better on par 3’s and 5’s, so was pretty happy with more of those in place of par 4’s.  The rolling terrain was used well while the emphasis on the tee shots and approaches was right up my alley.  Perhaps this course was made for me.  Ranking them would go 6, 2, 7, 3, 4, 9, 1, 5, 8.

The back nine starts with the 513 yard par 5.  One of my favorite holes on the course as a dog leg left to possibly the best green complex of the course.  Bunkers amass around the green, with the fairway narrowing significantly and snaking through them to the elevated green.  The generous second shot area again gives you an opportunity to decide how to approach this green, as there are multiple options depending on which distance or angle you want to take.  It’s a fun hole.

The Tenth

Moving down the fairway to the green

Approach shot territory

The bunkers to the left front of the green

The Eleventh is a 158 yard par 3.  Another unique hole that is a favorite of mine.  The tee shot is elevated which shortens the true distance, but the bunker, ravine and green contour make this a demanding one shotter, testing the acumen of the iron shot.  I aimed for the the fat part of the green in front, then lag putted across to the pin for my par.  It’s a great one shotter.

The Eleventh

A closer look at the green from the right side

The Twelfth is a 436 yard par 4.  This is the number one handicapped hole, but I couldn’t figure out why.  The tee shot is to a generous fairway and the green is straight away, albeit narrow and deep.  I found it pretty straightforward and easy compared to other holes, but still enjoyed it.  The run off area off to the right of the green is indicative of other areas near the green that I actually liked getting caught in.  I think it was mainly due to the type of grass, which seemed to keep the ball up as opposed to sunken like we get up here with the bent grass.  Again, this course was made for me.

The Twelfth

Approach shot territory
A look at the green and run off area to the right
A look at the grass off green that I fell i the love with

The ball is virtually teed up here.  Perfect for me.

The Thirteenth is a 334 yard par 4.  Yet another great contrast to the previous hole; while the Twelfth took on a flat almost linksy feel while this hole skyrockets straight uphill.  The fairway gently bends to the left, with a single tree obstructing a clear path from the tee to the green and the slope of the fairway leading to the tree as well.  The green sits on a plateau above some deep bunkers off to the left.  Yet another terrific short par 4 that sets itself apart from the others splendidly.

The Thirteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fourteenth is a 433 par 4.  Now coming down the other side of the hill, the elevated tee shot gives you an opportunity to shorten the hole for a short approach shot.  The fairway is wide, but not hitting the fairway leads to trouble with bunkers on the right and tall grass on the left.  An exacting approach shot is also necessary to avoid the bunkers on both sides.  With the horizon and the green all ahead of you on the tee, it’s yet another nice contrast to the solitude you get from the forest at the Second and Eleventh.

The Fourteenth

Approach shot territory

The Fifteenth is a 198 yard par 3.  Anything short or left should be fine, but off to the right ends up in a swath of bunkers.  I was fine leaving it short and relying on my wedge and putter to snag the par.  

The Fifteenth

The Sixteenth is a 526 yard par 5.  The tee shot is a forced carry over water (which I later learned is “Heritage Lake”).  The hole then proceeds straight to the green, but fluctuates in width as it pinches in and widens.  Bunkers toward the front of the green set up a risk reward situation for your second shot, goading you to carry them for a shorter wedge to the green.  I opted for laying up to the bunkers, then carrying them on to the green for my approach, but those that rally nail their tee shot have a decision on their hands for sure.

The Sixteenth

Second shot territory

Approach shot territory

The Seventeenth is a 396 yard par 4.  Although a shorter par 4, a booming tee shot is necessary because Heritage creek ends the fairway, demanding a carry over to the green.  The wide openness of the Twelfth through Sixteenth now switches to one of the only tree lined par 4’s on the course.  The downhill fairway towards the creek puts even more emphasis with setting up your approach shot, as the approach to the larger green also has a run off area to the right.  The approach shot is easier than most, but that’s only if the tee shot is well struck.  It’s a hole I’d expect to see in my neck of the woods, but is well done and fits in here.

The Seventeenth

Approach shot territory

The photo doesn’t do it justice, but the green and off green area here undulated superbly

The Eighteenth is a 359 yard par 4.  Another picturesque scene at the elevated tee shot with the hole and horizon all in front of you.  The green sits off to the right on the other side of a large lake, and with the bottleneck of the fairway closer to the tee, it almost beckons an attempt to reach the green from the tee.  At the very least, temper yourself from trying to belt your tee shot, as anything from a well struck mid iron will likely do nicely.  In fact, considering the water surrounding the green, less off the tee probably puts you at a better angle, but the temptation of this hole is well done in its design.

The Eighteenth

The back nine varies in terrain and is able to transition nicely from hole to hole.  The scenery is terrific, while the diversity and character of each hole is similar to the front.  I’d rank them 10, 11, 18, 13, 14, 17, 16, 12, 15.

Generally, Heritage Hill was a course I liked immensely.  Whether it was the fun and diversity of the short par 4’s, the options available on the par 5’s, the scenery of the tee shots at the Sixth, Fourteenth and Eighteenth or the solitude of the par 3’s at the Second and Eleventh, the course took on many different looks and pulled it off well.  The course really fit my eye and to be honest, it seemed to me straddled the line of character and quirk perfectly.  If I lived in the area, I would play here early and often.  One other very refreshing aspect of this course is that no holes really came into contact with each other.  Aside from the Sixth through Ninth that were in close proximity yet significantly separate, the course toured through the area without really switching back and forth.  Whether all of these design features were intended or not, it all comes together nicely in truly great fashion.

Gripes:  The driving range hours are perplexing, as I wanted to hit a few balls after the round, but they close things up periodically for some reason.  I always find it tough to find gripes with courses when I’m traveling for some reason but really, I can’t come up with much.  Oh yeah, I didn’t see a cart girl and was starving the entire round.  There you go.

Bar/grill:  Not sure because I didn’t have time to check it out.  There seemed to be both outside and inside seating, but that’s as much as I know.  Perhaps if a cart girl was there, I could comment on the food….

Clubhouse:  Well stocked and fittingly, was on a hill.  Heritage Hill I’m assuming.

Practice area:  Aside from it being closed, they have a full range and putting green.

Nearby:  Sorry, no help here.  I know it’s about 30 minutes south of Louisville.

Getting there:  Go to Louisville, then drive south for 30 minutes.